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Cigar Review: Aging Room M19 Fortissimo Preferido

16 Nov 2015

M19 FortissimoThe third annual release in this limited line from Aging Room features the now-familiar nipple foot, pigtail cap, and same dimensions (5.75 x 47) used in the previous M21 and M20.

The M19 also shares a full-strength profile with its siblings. But this year’s blend—introduced this summer—is a bit different, though all use well-aged tobaccos. To me, the M19 may be the smoothest Fortissimo yet.

With a nearly vein-free, tight Habano wrapper around Dominican binder and filler, the M19 is a lovely cigar. The box press is well done. This cigar performs as fine as it looks, with a near-perfect draw and slow burn from start to finish.

Aging Room rolled 20,000 M19s, the same number as it did for last year’s edition. So while it won’t be on every tobacconist shelf, there should be enough to go around, at least for a little while.

I’ve been working my way through a five-pack ($69.50) and each one has been a pleasure to smoke.

From the start, it grabs your attention with thick, powerful smoke and a pepper blast. The pepper drops off a bit about a third of the way down, and a rich tobacco sweetness builds over it.

There’s a bit of wood and leather along the way as well. By the final third, the pepper is back and bringing the M19 to a strong close.

If, like me, you’re already an Aging Room fan, I think you’ll find the M19 a natural for your palate. If you haven’t tried an Aging Room and want to check in with one at the top of the strength chart, light it up and enjoy.

I give the M19 four and a half stogies out of five.

[To read more cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Crux du Connoisseur No. 2

14 Nov 2015

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.


When I got the OK from my doctor to rejoin the land of the living, I had already decided this lovely 6.5-inch lancero would be my first smoke. Minnesota-based Crux sent me three samples when I was on the medically induced wagon, and the dark, oily Habano Jalapa wrapper was enticing. The cigar did not disappoint. The blend, with a Nicaraguan binder and Honduran filler, made an immediate impact with spice and cedar. The spice moved up and down in intensity throughout, and other flavors, from coffee to nuts, intermingled as well. Draw was a little tight in spots, but not really detrimental; construction and burn, always a concern with thin cigars (38 ring gauge), was excellent. A cigar you’ll want to smoke.

Verdict = Buy.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys


Commentary: Why ‘What’s New?’ Is Here to Stay

5 Nov 2015


One of the common themes on forums, blogs, and podcasts these days is dissatisfaction with the seemingly endless number of limited and special edition cigars. “I’m through chasing them,” is a typical complaint.

Tiring it may be, but don’t expect the trend to go away anytime soon (barring, of course, some U.S. Food and Drug Administration intervention). Ongoing changes in the cigar industry—from sales to buying habits—are likely to lead to more small releases.

I’m no industry insider, and I have no special knowledge. My conclusions are drawn from conversations with a few manufacturers and retailers, as well as keeping up with and observing the industry for quite a few years.


— The premium cigar industry is not growing much, if at all, in terms of sales. Imports for 2014 were essentially the same as for the previous year. At least some manufacturers don’t anticipate 2015 to be much different.

— Much of the growth comes from new smokers, who are apt to be younger and not nearly as tied to a brand as are many older smokers. Retailers of yesteryear can tell you of the many, many customers who’d stop by once a week or month and pick up a box or two of the same cigar like clockwork. These days, customers are much more likely to be looking for what’s new and their repeat box purchases occur far less frequently, if at all.

— Events are driving a higher and higher chunk of sales. Whether a single store/brand affair or massive productions like Big Smoke or Smoke Inn’s Great Smoke, customers expect to be entertained and enticed, as well as given a bargain. Without something new to offer, vendors can find themselves at a disadvantage.

— The growing cigar production industry, especially in Nicaragua, has created bigger factories and more trained workers, both resulting in increased capacity. Those who want to create their own brand can find tobacco and facilities to do it.

Of course, none of this means every company’s success is dependent on novelty or constantly introducing new cigars. Dominant brands such as Padrón and Arturo Fuente continue to be industry leaders and seem virtually unaffected by trends or fads.

But for smaller, newer brands it becomes tougher to break out of the pack and that leads to efforts to distinguish yourself, whether that’s a massive ring gauge, a shop exclusive, a limited run, outrageous packaging, or something else.

I can’t say what lies ahead. But I wouldn’t look for the rate of releases to slow down anytime soon.

George E

photo credit: Flickr

Commentary: Why I (Sort Of) Gave Up Cigars

7 Oct 2015

With a medical procedure looming, my doctor insisted I give up cigars for several weeks to clear nicotine from my system. I don’t really know how serious the risk is. All the material she gave me seemed to focus on the impacts of cigarette smoking.

Still, I trust her skills, she’s an excellent surgeon, and I knew I’d have no difficulty complying. And I do want to recover as quickly as possible. If that means a few weeks without cigars, so be it. What I didn’t fully count on, though, was how much I’d miss my cigar time.

Sitting on the back deck in the afternoon reading the papers or having one in the evening and listening to a baseball game. Dropping by the local B&M on Sundays and lighting up while watching an NFL game.

Sure, I can still read, listen, and watch. But, for me, these activities lose something without an accompanying cigar. Rarely do I ever smoke more than one cigar a day, so it’s purely pleasure, not a habit.

And I know about tobacco habit and addiction. I started smoking cigarettes as a teenager. Back then, I think the minimum smoking age was 16, though no one hesitated to sell a pack to someone much younger (who was just assumed to be buying them for their mother or father). My high school had a student smoking area and, when I went to work, every desk came with an ashtray. Cigarette advertisements were everywhere.

I smoked steadily for decades and quit about 30 years ago. It was about the time the anti-smoking movement was beginning to take hold. Employers were doing things like banning smoking in the open and creating smoking rooms. I could see all that wasn’t going to end well for cigarette smokers.

But that didn’t make it any easier to quit. I struggled for months, maybe years, before I didn’t want another cigarette. Part of that was because I truly enjoyed smoking cigarettes. Well, some of them, anyway.

I used to joke that I’d take up cigarettes again when I retired. I didn’t but instead became attracted to cigars. Why, I’m still not exactly sure, though I don’t think it really had anything to do with cigarettes.

Lighting up a cigarette was a reaction, a release, a trigger. A way to focus, a signal to perform, a reward. Cigars are much more about relaxation and pleasure, a complement to enjoyable activities.

So, I’m looking forward to getting done with the operation, recovering, and, once again, hitting the humidor.

George E

photo credit: N/A

First Smoke: Bolivar 550

30 Sep 2015

First Smoke is a new series of Quick Smoke reviews, each evaluating a single pre-release cigar. Like the Quick Smokes we publish each Saturday and Sunday, each First Smoke is not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.fyr-cvr-robusto-sq


It was about 10 years ago, I think, when General Cigar’s Bolivar line underwent a transformation to a bolder, stronger cigar. I remember being impressed at the time and smoking quite a few until they gradually moved to the back of the box. I can’t remember when I last had one. Until now, that is. I was excited to try the new incarnation, with its “classic taste reimagined” by General’s skunkworks, Foundry Tobacco Co. Though I wasn’t able to attend the past summer’s IPCPR Trade Show, General kindly sent me samples of Bolivar and several other new releases. (Don’t pay much attention to the band; General says the sticks were rolled for the Trade Show and the bands don’t represent the final product.)

It’s a nice-looking, dark, oily stick with a pigtail cap and an unfinished foot. According to General, the wrapper is Havano Connecticut, the binder Ecuadorian Sumatra, and the filler from Nicaragua, Honduras, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic. List price on the robusto-sized 550 (5 x 50) is $6.49, lowest of the three sizes. Construction and performance were excellent, with a near-perfect draw.

I found the new Bolivar rich but a bit harsh. That diminished somewhat after the first third but picked up again towards the end. There is some nice tobacco sweetness as well as notes of chocolate and coffee, particularly in the middle. Overall, though, for me the bite was a drawback. While I’d definitely recommend trying it, you might be better served by first letting your tobacconist age them a bit on their shelves.

Verdict = Hold.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys

Quick Smoke: Nestor Miranda Collection One Life Edition Danno Connecticut

27 Sep 2015

Each Saturday and Sunday we’ll post a Quick Smoke: not quite a full review, just our brief take on a single cigar.

Danno Conn

For lovers of light Connecticut cigars, this large limited edition will almost certainly be a hit. With a Nicaraguan binder and multi-nation filler, the strength is light while the predominant flavor is the familiar grass and hay from the lovely light brown wrapper. Construction and performance are excellent. For my taste, though, this Danno (samples provided by Miami Cigar & Co.) is simply too light. Judge your preference accordingly.

Verdict = Hold.

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys


Cigar Review: Leccia Tobacco Luchador El Gringo Frog Splash

21 Sep 2015

Sam Leccia rose to prominence in the cigar world not by simply going off the beaten path but by carving out his own personal freeway. When he pioneered Nub—a concept now widely copied—Leccia promoted it passionately. Affable and engaging, he hit the road like an evangelist on a tent-show revival tour, gaining new fans wherever he went.

Frog SplashStymied by a non-compete after he left Oliva, Leccia was out of the picture for a while but never out of the thoughts of those who admired his work. Forums and blogs often sizzled with rumors of his return. When Leccia did come back, heading an eponymous company, the inaugural Black and White cigars earned high praise, particularly his use of fire-cured tobacco, quite unusual at the time.

Then came another speed bump. Industry giant General Cigar acquired his distributor, Toraño, and soon thereafter Leccia licensed his brands to General and went to work for the company. And, once again, Leccia and his cigars were the center of attention and rumor. Would the creative iconoclast be swallowed up by the corporate behemoth? To some, it seemed as if Steve Jobs had gone to work for IBM. (Interestingly, Leccia was a trailblazer in this as well, his move foreshadowing the angst that followed the sale of Drew Estate to Swisher shortly afterward.)

These days, Leccia says, he’s splitting work time among his home in Pittsburgh (site of Leccia Tobacco headquarters, aka “my garage”), General’s offices in Richmond, and on the road. In an email, he said he’s been to over 30 states and 4 countries since February: “I find that being on the road and meeting with retailers and customers is one of the most important aspects of this business, and I don’t imagine that ever slowing down.”

Interestingly, Leccia said the biggest surprise for him at General has been “how truly small this large company really is… People think of it as some huge corporate goliath, and it is so far from that. The premium cigar industry is incredibly small, so sure, General is a big fish, but the pond is more of a deep puddle.”

When it came time for this year’s cigar trade show, consumers were keenly interested in what Leccia would introduce. Once again, he went his own way. Rather than something completely new—which is what might have been expected—Leccia showed off an extension of his existing Luchador line, called El Gringo. (Of course, he did that his way as well, bringing a professional wrestler—masked, of course—to the floor to knock Leccia around.) With four sizes, each named for a wrestling move, El Gringo has a Nicaraguan Oscuro wrapper, Nicaraguan binder, and Ligero from Nicaragua and Pennsylvania. The band features a distinct version of the line’s Mexican wrestling mask.

General sent me samples of the Frog Splash, which retails for $8.25 and comes in boxes of 21. Short (4.5 inches), sharply pressed (Leccia refers to it as a “mat press”), and thick (70 ring gauge), it looks like a powerhouse. And it doesn’t disappoint, displaying strength in the upper-medium to full range.

I wasn’t sure at first how it would smoke. For someone not particularly fond of large ring-gauge cigars, Frog Splash is a bit intimidating. The press, though, does make it more comfortable. I tried a guillotine cut on the foot of a couple, but found a large punch worked better, tightening up the draw a tad. Each one I smoked performed excellently: slow, even burn; tight ash; and lots of smoke.

From beginning to end, it is a smooth, rich cigar, with pepper, dark chocolate, spice and coffee tastes that rise and fall throughout. I found it engaging and enjoyable from beginning to end, which was about two hours.

I recommend giving this line a try, especially if it is outside your cigar comfort zone. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. As for a rating, I give the Frog Splash a high-flying four stogies out of five.

[To read more cigar reviews, please click here.]

George E

photo credit: Stogie Guys